Freedom to Marry from External Interference

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Case:

Shakti Vahini v. Union of India & Ors.

Coram:

Justice Dipak Misra

Justice D Y Chandrachud

Justice A M Khanwilkar

Facts:

The brief facts of the case as follows:

The issue of violence perpetrated by the members of the Khap Panchayats in the name of honor has put fear upon the young adults to make an individual choice to marry. The infamous honor killings have been a norm to restrain consenting adults from inter-caste or inter-faith marriages. The issue gained widespread attention through electronic and digital media, wherein these barbaric and gruesome murders came to public focus. To curb the menace of honor killing and prohibit interference from the members of the Khap Panchayat into marriages, a petition in 2010 had been moved by the NGO Shakti Vahini in the hon’ Supreme Court of India.

Recently, the Hon’ Court reserved its judgment on the issue. The Court in earlier proceedings categorically stated that marriages of consenting adults cannot be infringed/interfered by anyone. The court in its recent observation had taken consideration of the report filed by the Amicus Curiae Raju Ramachandran. The Court seemed determined to protect the rights of the adults against hate crimes. The Court considered the recommendations wherein the term Khap Panchayat was suggested to be replaced with Marriage Prohibition Assembly and implement recommendations of the 242nd report of the Law Commission of India.

Key Observations:

  • No one can interfere when two consenting adults decide to marry.
  • Protection from hate crimes (honor killings) for inter-caste and inter-faith marriages.
  • Guidelines to prohibit Khap Panchayat from barring individuals from the liberty to make independent choices of marriage.

Outcome & Social Relevance:

The functioning of the non-judicial/extra-constitutional bodies has been a black spot to the constitutional democracy. The hate crimes and violent extremism undertaken by these bodies not only causes infringement to the Rule of Law but also set a downward trend to the progressing minds. The interference by the Khap Panchayats is in direct violation of individual liberty and freedom. The Court’s determination to prohibit honor killings is a welcome move, and the possibility of issuing guidelines with collective deliberations would be a benchmark to uphold constitutional values of our country. This would open doors for judicial activism over the activities undertaken by extra-judicial bodies. The role of public-spirited organizations is equally commendable for social reforms. It is hopeful that this would open wider doors to bring many more discriminatory practices under judicial scrutiny like “Virginity Test” carried by the members of the Kanjarbhat Community.

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